Claims by Olympic bronze medallist Saina Nehwal that players fitness is being compromised ahead of three Badminton World Federation (BWF) events in Thailand, with physiotherapists and trainers needing a special appointment to visit players for treatment have been denied by the International Federation.
The three-time Commonwealth Games champion and former world number one posted a series of messages on social media questioning tournament organisers’ coronavirus restrictions on athletes and has called on the BWF to intervene.
The BWF in turn pointed out that the Badminton Association of India (BAI) had been given advance notice of the anti-coronavirus measures in place, and dismissed a claim that players would not have access to physiotherapists throughout the tournament.
Nehwal's request to see a physiotherapist had been denied because it was made before players were permitted to leave their rooms, the BWF said.
India's Nehwal, who clinched Olympic bronze in the women’s singles at London 2012, is in Bangkok gearing up for the Yonex Thailand Open which is due to run from January 12 to 17.
It is the first of three tournaments scheduled to be held in Bangkok this month, with the Toyota Thailand Open due to take place from January 19 to 24 followed by the BWF World Tour Finals, set for January 27 to 31.
Nehwal claimed it was an "important" period for players as they aim to qualify for this year’s rescheduled Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games.
But she suggested the coronavirus countermeasures imposed at the events would harm the condition of athletes.
Practice only for an hour everyday for the entire team ? Gym timings the same ... considering March being the important Olympic qualification period this is not good enough to be in good shape . @bwfmedia— Saina Nehwal (@NSaina) January 5, 2021
"The physios and trainers cannot meet us during the entire tour after all of us having tested negative," Nehwal wrote.
"Four weeks of this.
"How is it possible to maintain ourselves?
"We want to play the tournament in good condition.
"Please sort this [BWF]."
Nehwal also criticised the lack of practice time for players, claiming they were only given "an hour everyday for the entire team" with "gym timings the same".
The 30-year-old, who has also won a silver and bronze at the World Championships, claimed the situation in Bangkok was "not good enough" to help players get in "good shape".
Tried contacting @bwfmedia but no reply .. so had to do this ..— Saina Nehwal (@NSaina) January 5, 2021
"No time for warm-ups, taping, cool downs and stretches," Nehwall added.
"We are talking about the best players in the world competing.
"We’ve spent a lot of money getting the physios and trainers along with us.
"If they can’t help us then why was this not told [to us] before?"
Following Nehwal's comments on Tuesday (January 5), a spokesperson for the BWF told insidethegames the Indian team were contacted that evening to address her concerns.
According to the BWF, the BAI had received the tournament prospectus that sets out the coronavirus restrictions on December 12.
The rules state that players must stay in their rooms until the COVID-19 test results had come back negative and practice commenced on January 6.
The BWF spokesperson said Nehwal had requested to see her physiotherapist on January 5, but was told by the Badminton Association of Thailand (BAT) this would not be possible until the following day permitting "everyone had their negative test result".
"The response from BAT also explained that from January 6 onwards, a special procedure/appointment is still needed for any personnel to leave their room to go to the practice hall, or in the case of a physio, visit the athletes they treat," added the BWF spokesperson.
"The BAI again confirmed they received this shortly after and thanked BAT for their assistance.
"Then some six hours later, Saina posted her Tweets."
BWF secretary general Thomas Lund also claimed he had received "positive" feedback from players regarding the safety protocols and confirmed all participants had tested negative.
"It is a different environment we find ourselves in but we are doing everything we can to accommodate the players and their needs, while keeping safety requirements high," added Lund.
The three tournaments in Bangkok have been hit by a number of high-profile withdrawals due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The Chinese team felt it was unsafe to travel, while Japan pulled out after world champion Kento Momota tested positive for COVID-19.
Indonesia’s world number one doubles pair Marcus Fernaldi Gideon and Kevin Sanjaya Sukamuljo have also withdrawn, with the latter returning three positive coronavirus tests.
Home favourite Nitchaon Jindapol is another notable absentee after she was injured in a training session.